Contractors insisted job would be done by new year – but work restarted this week
Minutes of a November meeting attended by Leo Quinn and the Scottish transport secretary show Balfour Beatty’s boss had doubts about whether the Aberdeen bypass could be finished in 2018.
Last month, representatives of both Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try, the firms building the delayed road, told the Scottish parliament they expected to finish the final section before Christmas – with Balfour telling investors it would be done by the end of 2018 in a trading update on 14 December.
But less than a week later, client Transport Scotland said it had been told the road would now be finished in this month.
This week, the transport agency told Building it has still not received a specific date for completion.
The minutes of the meeting between Quinn (pictured) and Michael Matheson held on 8 November reveal Quinn was hedging his bets over when the road would complete.
They record: “LQ suggested that a December date was ‘only one scenario.’ Other scenarios would extend the timetable into 2019.”
The meeting was also attended by Galliford Try’s construction chief Bill Hocking, and representatives of Transport Scotland and the JV Aberdeen Roads which comprises Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try.
The discussion followed a trading statement made by Galliford Try the day before on 7 November, in which the firm said the road was expected to be complete in December.
The minutes, which were published on the Scottish government’s website yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information request, add: “A robust exchange followed regarding LQ’s assertion about a 2019 date when compared with Galliford Try’s trading statement.”
Following news that completion of the road had slipped into this year, Matheson said: “I have consistently urged caution and realism about [the contractors’] ambitious timescales…it comes as no surprise to me [they have] been unable to achieve this.”
The bypass was originally due to be completed in spring 2017 but builders have had to battle with poor weather, a host of utility diversions and the collapse of fellow partner Carillion.
The final unopened stretch runs 7.5km between Parkhill and Craibstone and includes a bridge crossing the river Don where the contractor is carrying out remedial works.
Aberdeen Roads is pursuing a claim against Transport Scotland for delays it said were out of its hands on the 300-plus utility diversions it needed to carry out. It said utility firms should be responsible for the bill which included sorting out electricity cables, water pipes and telecoms.
Aberdeen Roads said there were so many utility diversions to carry out that contractors were on average coming across one every 200m across the entire length of the 58km road.
Balfour Beatty has been contacted for comment.